Sally Ride ‘Comes Out’ in Obituary

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died yesterday aged 61. Her obituary revealed that she was gay.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died yesterday aged 61. Her obituary revealed that she was gay.

BuzzFeed (“First Female U.S. Astronaut, Sally Ride, Comes Out In Obituary“):

Sally Ride, who died today after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, was the first female U.S. astronaut in space and became friends with Tam O’Shaugnessy at the age of 12. It was not until today, however — nearly 50 years after meeting — that their 27-year romantic relationship was made public.

The pioneering scientist was, a statement from Sally Ride Science announced, survived by “Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years.”

With that simple statement — listed alongside her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin and nephew, Whitney — Ride came out.

Bear Ride, talking with BuzzFeed, said today, “We consider Tam a member of the family.”

Saying that her sister was a very private person, Bear Ride said, “People did not know she had pancreatic cancer, that’s going to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew — and everyone does now. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer.

“The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there’s now this advocate that they didn’t know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same,” Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, said.

“I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them,” she added.

It says something remarkable about the time she lived that Ride was more afraid of telling the world about her partner than launching into outer space on a massive explosive device.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Obituaries, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    At the time she made her first journey into space, Ride was married to astronaut Steve Hawley. They divorced in 1987. Hawley paid a very nice tribute to her after her death; clearly they retained affection and respect for each other after the marriage ended.

  2. BTW, Bear Ride is an awesome name.

  3. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same

    While it was certainly Ride’s decision who to tell, if he chose to keep it private her entire life, in what sense was she an advocate?

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Romney yesterday mourned Ride…

    “…Today, America lost one of its greatest pioneers. The first American woman in space, Sally Ride inspired millions of Americans with her determination to break the mold of her time. She was a profile in courage, and while she will be missed, her accomplishments will never be forgotten…”

    Yet Romney and his Party still would not have her marry her partner of 27 years.
    There is a choice in November…the bigotry and close-mindedness of the past, or the future.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Not just an awesome name, but the Most Awesome Name Ever! I really hope it is her legal name, and not a nickname, but even as a nickname, it’s great.

    It is a little sad that Sally Ride was not named Porcupine Ride or something like that. It’s a bit sadder that she wasn’t able to publicly acknowledge her partner during her lifetime. I hope the general collective shrug this news receives helps others of her generation realize that no one really cares.

  6. PJ says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Yet Romney and his Party still would not have her marry her partner of 27 years.
    There is a choice in November…the bigotry and close-mindedness of the past, or the future.

    In 2008, Sally Ride endorsed Obama.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Gustopher: It’s also a bit ironic that the daughter named “Bear” isn’t the one that turned out to be a lesbian. Unless they both did.

  8. CSK says:

    Bear Ride is also gay. I have read that her real name, or at least the one she was given at birth, is Karen.

  9. @James Joyner:

    From the article: “Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, said.”

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Ah, that makes sense. What are the odds that both daughters are gay?

  11. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: It often runs in families — which you would expect if gayness was genetic, or caused by upbringing.